By Mary Fox

If you are a Civil War enthusiast or just interested in history, the Ellicottville Historical Society is offering an excellent lineup of speakers on the Civil War this summer.

“Speakers on the Civil War are part of the Historical Museum’s civil war theme with displays of artifacts, photographs and other memorabilia of the Ellicottville area’s participation in the war,” said Ellicottville Town Historian Mary Elizabeth Dunbar.

On Wednesday, May 8, Earl McElfresh, author and owner of the McElfresh Map Co. in Olean, gave a presentation to the Ellicottville Historical Society on the subject of Civil War mapmaking.

McElfresh has done extensive research and written books on the Civil War and a variety of different subjects and has written numerous articles on the Civil War for many publications. He has presented his work on the Civil War at the Smithsonian, the National Archives on C-Span and for numerous other associations. It was truly an honor to entertain an author of his caliber.

Although it was a small group, it was enjoyable and fun to have the opportunity to speak to an enthusiastic, non-critical audience,” he said.

McElfresh’s book “Maps and Mapmakers of the Civil War” (Abrams 1999), containing 180 detailed maps, was the subject of his fascinating presentation. He showed how the necessity for, and the lack of, proper field and post-battle maps may have made the difference in the result of the war and lessened casualties of 300 per day which, compared to today’s population numbers, would be equivalent to 3,000 per day.

Robert E. Lee knew the territory and had mapmakers to provide him with the necessary field maps to move his troops into battle in Virginia. After the battles in Virginia, he had his mapmakers create maps of the battles he had fought instead of having them prepare maps of the areas into which he was going in Pennsylvania and Maryland. Leee virtually went into these areas blind having no maps showing where roads, bridges etc. were located.

“The Civil War was the largest rebellion ever to fail,” he said. “When the war began, other countries could not believe that Lincoln could put down the rebellion.”

McElfresh’s book is available at the Ellicottville Memorial Library.

“We invite everyone to come out and partake of this year’s great Civil War lineup of speakers,” said Cathy Lacy, Historical Society vice president. “Next month, on June 12, we will take a step aside from the Civil War with, Greg Kinal, presenting an entertaining program on ‘Presidential Indiscretions’ with a humorous as well as historical insight into the secret lives of past presidents.”

The speaker series is open to anyone who would like to attend. Programs begin at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month after a short business meeting.

Anyone wishing to become a member of the Ellicottville Historical Society may join for $5 at any of the meetings.

The Historical Museum will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1–4 p.m. beginning June 1.